book review: graceling


If you didn't know, MYBibliomaniacs is hosting monthly readalongs on Twitter and for the month of January, the genre was YA Fantasy and the book chosen was Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I really enjoyed the book and am rating it 4.3 out of 5 stars!
Honestly though, my expectations for the book kept changing. Before reading it, i had somewhat of high expectations because the reviews on Goodreads were great. But then while reading, the start was just so slow and some other people who had finished reading didn't really enjoy it. So i lowered my expectations a lot, and was sure i probably was going to have the same opinions. Surprisingly, i actually really enjoyed it, and even love it to a certain point.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight - she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug.
When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.
She never expects to become Po's friend.
She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace - or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away..

The story and plot
 The main reason my rating for this book isn't that high is mostly because of the incredibly slow start of the story. It wasn't exactly boring or anything, but it was just very hard for me to get into the book for the first 70 pages or so. Firstly, there were so many new characters being introduced that it was confusing to remember who was who at first and what their relation to Katsa was. Furthermore, a lot of new names of places were introduced as well. The good thing is that there is a map of the land at the start of the book that I could refer to, but the rush of all the unfamiliar names was a little overwhelming in the beginning. It wasn't hard to get used to eventually though.

The story gets pretty interesting about 70 pages in, and from then on i was absolutely hooked! I didn't expect a lot of things that happened, and all the plot twists were really fun to discover. The ending could have been better, but i liked that i didn't really expect it.

The writing
It's weird, i wasn't very fond of the writing at first because it seemed pretty normal and nothing that special. But then when the story starts to get more fast paced, it's like the writing automatically seemed to get better and better as well. A lot of the dialogue had a more formal style, which seemed old-fashioned and fitting for a high fantasy book like Graceling. It had some sort of elegance to it, which i found really nice. The romance was fantastic, in my opinion. I love, love the romance! I love that it wasn't a typical insta-love and that it took its time and that it was so much more than the normal, traditional kind of love. Some of the lines made me gush and feel warm and bubbly inside. Sometimes i felt like i was the character who was in love.

Some people may not like certain parts of the book(specifically the times when the characters are travelling) because it seemed quite slow-paced, but i truly enjoyed every line of it. There's something about the way Kristin Cashore wrote how the characters struggled and were determined to do what they needed to do that made those slow parts intense, emotional and gripping for me. Other than that, the way the author describes situations and surroundings was just brilliant. I couldn't appreciate it for the first half of the book, but i did for the rest. It managed to paint the story in my head. It made me want to see it with my own eyes.


The characters 
The main characters in Graceling are undeniably amazing. My favourites are definitely Katsa, Po, Raffin, Bitterblue and Skye(even though Skye only appeared for a short time). They weren't perfect, but they were very attractive and some had really great character development. I wish we knew more about the antagonist in the story, but even with the small bit that we were told about him, he was still a very interesting character(even though i really hate him and am more than glad that he died).

This will probably be an unpopular opinion, but i freaking love Katsa. I didn't at first, but her character development was the best one in this book and i was really amazed at the end by how much she had grown. She seems like this amazing, badass girl and it should have been impossible to relate to someone like her, with Katsa being Graced and all while everyone else is quite ordinary. But surprisingly, i managed to relate to her way more than i thought i could. Her principles and her stances echoes my own to a certain point; she's quite a feminist in that world. While my beliefs don't really go on to Katsa's level, i could still see her reasons and understand why she felt the way she felt about certain issues(especially regarding love and marriage). Other than that, i love how strong she is physically and mentally, and how unlike many cliche characters, she's able to prioritize the right things(most of the time). Even though she's just fictional and i obviously can't do the things she can, she somehow inspires me.

***SPOILER SECTION***

Oh, God. I have a new(or another??) fictional husband, and his name is Po. Prince Po. He is absolutely incredible. He is everything i've wanted in a (fictional) husband, and more. I didn't even know i wanted someone like him until i read this book. Firstly, even though i'd feel awkward and uncomfortable about his Grace, he still has a really amazing gift. The mind-reading part was impressive yes, but what was even more incredible is the way he's able to feel and interact with the nature around him. He also sounds physically attractive, with those fascinating eyes and his marvelous skills in combat.

And lastly of course, because of his love for Katsa and his loyalty to his family. I fell in love with him when he told Katsa that she doesn't have to be somebody else if they were together. I loved him when he told her that he'll give himself to her however she would take him. I love that he understands that Katsa could never feel the same if they were bounded by marriage, even if he wouldn't push her to be someone she didn't want to be. I love that he understands. And i find him very romantic too. I love it when he calls Katsa wildcat, AWHHH. And wow, i don't even know why i felt shy and nervous during that scene when he was shirtless and katsa wondered about the marks around his arms. And why i felt like blushing myself when he said the marks were meant for the eyes of his wife only. Lol, that seemed very parallel to the concept of wearing hijab, it was hilariously cool.
I'm quite sad for him about his fate in the end. I'm so happy he didn't die, but it was quire terrible that he lost his eyesight. I liked that the author had described how happy Po gets when he sees incredibly beautiful things(like the scenery at his castle in Lienid). It really helped me to understand why he would feel quite depressed at the end.

Bitterblue was also a great character. I didn't think i would feel that attached to her in the end, but i sort of did somehow. Her development was quite superb. I love how she builds on her courage and how determined she was during their hard journeys. Even though at times i felt like it was too unrealistic for a 10-year-old girl to sound so mature and wise and had actually become a queen, i still liked her. Perhaps it would have been better if she were two years older though. I'm quite excited to read the 3rd companion book, Bitterblue.

I kind of also fell in love with Po's brother, Skye. I wish we had gotten more of him! I wouldn't mind at all if we got a whole book about him. He sounds super interesting and attractive like Po.

***END OF SPOILERS***

I wish the ending was written in a more uplifting tone, but it was still decent enough that i finished the book feeling glad that i had read it. I do wish some things were different, but i can accept it well enough. I'm was a bit disappointed to find out that the 2nd and 3rd book aren't continuations from Graceling, but more of companion books with new characters from the same world. I'm very interested to read the other two, mostly because i want to see more of the characters from the first book. It's not the best high fantasy, but it's one i really enjoyed.


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